The Dual-Tasking Texting Effect of Cell Phone Technology on Walking

The Dual-Tasking Texting Effect of Cell Phone Technology on Walking

Asher Mendelsohn (Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Canada) and Carlos Zerpa (Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/IJEACH.2020010101

Abstract

Dual-tasking is the simultaneous performance of two tasks causing a divided allocation of attentional resources. Dual-tasking is apparent in our society in the form of cell phone use while walking, which alters gait characteristics, resulting in an increased risk of injuries due to falls and collisions. This study explored the effect of cell phone texting on walking and validated the use of accelerometer technology to measure gait characteristics. Twelve young adult participants walked three times across electronic force platforms during regular walking (control), walking while reading a text (reading), walking while typing a text (texting). The results indicated that gait force patterns differed from control during texting. The results also indicated a significant correlation between measures of force and acceleration across walking conditions. The outcome of this study adds to existing literature regarding the effects of cell phone use on walking patterns and highlights the use of accelerometer technology to assess gait characteristics.
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Background

Human locomotion grants people the ability to move efficiently from one position to another. In biomechanical terms, human locomotion entails moving the center of mass along a horizontal trajectory with a specified direction and velocity (Arch & Fylstra, 2016; Marasović, Cecić, & Zanchi, 2009). The unique gait characteristics of humans allows them to walk while remaining upright and alert with the hands free for simultaneous use (Foley & Elton, 1998). When gait becomes hindered in an individual, the quality of life tends to decrease, as the difficulty to perform activities of daily living increases. Because of the importance of walking in daily life, gait has become a central focus of study for many researchers aiming to understand the typical and atypical patterns of walking (Marasović et al., 2009). With an increased understanding of walking, research can focus on gait rehabilitation, performance enhancement, and potential risks affecting optimal gait performance. To examine atypical patterns in the walking gait, a thorough understanding of typical walking patterns must first be accomplished.

Walking entails two main phases: the stance phase and the swing phase (Marasović et al., 2009). The stance phase can be further broken down into heel strike, midstance, and toe-off of the leg in contact with the ground (Marasović et al., 2009). The swing phase occurs directly after including the initial swing, mid-swing, and terminal swing of the leg moving through the air (Marasović et al., 2009). There is also a moment of double support occurring when both feet are in contact with the ground (Marasović et al., 2009). These phases of walking are typically assessed using measures of muscle activation, velocity, acceleration and forces (Marasović et al., 2009; Martin & Bajcsy, 2011). For the purpose of this study, the researchers used measures of accelerometry and ground reaction forces.

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